Meet the UYP17 Professors

 

Kim Affinati, Supervising Quality of Care Facility Review Specialist, New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs
Class: Justice Center: Abuse and Neglect Awareness and Reporting
Elective
Bio: Kim Affinati is currently employed as a Supervising Review Specialist for the New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs and has been working for the agency since its inception in June 2013. In this role, Kim oversees a team of staff responsible for making recommendations to agencies aimed at preventing future abuse and neglect and improving the quality of care afforded to individuals receiving services. Kim was previously employed as an Investigator at the NYS Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities. Kim earned a Master of Science degree in Forensic Mental Health and has over ten years of experience in the mental health and substance abuse fields, including program management and development.

 

Nancy Amaro, Seamstress, Cosplayer
Class:
Nerd Culture: Cosplay, Artivism & Peer Support through Shared Interests and Hobbies
Elective
Bio: Nancy is a seamstress, artist and costume designer from Texas. She recently moved to New York to explore the power of what peer support can do and follow her dreams.

 

Anne Dox, Regional Coordinator, Mental Health Empowerment Project, Inc.
Class: The Power of Language
Elective
Bio: For many years, Anne has worked as an advocate and activist to protect human and civil rights with and for people in mental and behavioral health systems in New York State.  In recent years, she has focused on the promotion of genuine peer support values and practices.  Anne has provided many educational, interactive presentations and workshops throughout the state to assist interested people to move from dependence on to their self-defined “best life”.

 

Abaigael Duke, Advocacy Specialist, Office of Mental Health – NYC Field Office
Classes: Leadership Development: Growing the Leader within Yourself and the Youth You Serve; Peers as Role Models: How Living and Working in Your Recovery Inspires Those Around You
Elective; Peer Advocacy
Bio: Abaigael Duke has worked as a peer for many years for non-profit, county, and state agencies. Extensive lived experience as a young person in the mental health system.

 

Todd French, Mental Health Empowerment Project
Activity:
Body Percussion Ice Breaker
All Students
Bio: Todd French is a Statewide Trainer for the Mental Health Empowerment Project, Inc., where he provides training and technical assistance on peer support, wellness, as well as disability and human rights issues.  Outside of work, he is a practicing musician and composer with a lifelong interest in the power of music to unite people and encourage wellbeing.   As a person with lived experience, he has used music as a fundamental part of his own recovery.  He recently presented on the use of Peer Support across mental and substance abuse systems at the 10th Annual New York City Working Peer Specialist Conference and at the New York City Third Annual Behavioral Health Peers Conference.  Todd is especially interested in the use of rhythm and percussion to unite people in recovery through group participation in drumming, chanting, and other musical modalities.

 

Kate Foil, Cosplayer, Advocate;
Class:
Nerd Culture: Cosplay, Artivism & Peer Support through Shared Interests and Hobbies
Elective
Bio: Kate Foil is an activist, cosplayer, geek and survivor. She actively uses her online presence to bring awareness to both geek culture as well as activism topics such as LGBTQ rights, feminism, equal rights, and mental health amongst many other hot topics.

 

Alex Frisina, Long Island Regional Youth Partner, YOUTH POWER!
Class:
Creativity is the Movement
Elective
Bio: Alexander Frisina is a hardworking and dedicated young professional that was labeled with Special Education needs at an early age. Adopted at a young age by a family located in Eastern Long Island, Alex is the youngest of four siblings and the only adopted member of his family. Facing issues of self-identity Alex struggled with depression. Throughout the decision-making process of his treatment, he felt voiceless and was made to believe he had no choices. This feeling pushed Alex to seek alternative methods of expression; which lead him down the road of creative writing. Alex used his writing to not only express himself but also escape from the feeling of being powerless and unheard. Since graduating from King’s College located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania Alex has been seeking a position that uses his creative background to help make a difference. Learning about the work YOUTH POWER! has done and the goals they are working towards Alex realized his past experience could be used to help others dealing with similar situations. Pulling from past experiences and gaining knowledge every day Alex hopes to push for change and spread the work of YOUTH POWER!

 

Anna Gennari, Director of Programs, Foster Youth in Action
Class: Foster Care Organizing – Getting at the Roots & Ivy!
Major: Systems Advocacy
Bio: Anna Gennari is Foster Youth in Action’s Director of Programs. Before joining FYA, Anna worked with New Mexico’s Building Futures & Foundations Project There she implemented a highly successful youth advocacy network, supporting foster youth organizers to build their membership base, win legislative victories, and build coalitions with allied organizations. At the foundation of her work is a passion built from her personal experience navigating group homes and managed-care facilities in the juvenile justice system, a journey which catalyzed her unwavering commitment to improving the systems that support young people.

 

Pauline Gordon, Youth and Family Specialist, NYC Administrative Children’s Services/Office of Family Engagement and Youth Advocacy
Class:
Be Your Own Best Advocate!
Elective
Bio:
Pauline Gordon currently works full-time as a Youth and Family Specialist at NYC Administration for Children’s Services. As a former foster youth, she has used the lessons learned from overcoming adversity in the foster care system as a driving force to help others in similar crises. Pauline has previously worked as a youth advocate for Lawyers for Children, YOUTH POWER! and Mental Health Association of NYC.  She has appeared on panels and has spoken at national conferences and other events, bringing a consumer and youth perspective to discussions. For several years, Pauline has served as a systems advocate on local and national boards and committees. In addition, she’s written articles and personal essays, which raised awareness of issues affecting youth in child serving systems for award-winning magazine, Represent of Youth Communications and other national media outlets and advocacy organizations republished many of her stories.

 

Doug Hahn, Youth Peer Mentor, Mental Health Association of Erie County; YOUTH POWER! Board Member
Class: Trauma Informed Care
Major: Peer Advocacy
Bio: I was diagnosed with a mental health condition at a young age, and have received various levels of care in the past; my experiences were mixed but across the board, peer support was a driving force in my recovery. It inspired me to develop goals of my own: helping youth who are struggling, letting them know that their voice is valid and heard, and to help make peer support more available in the community while decreasing stigma. My mission is to use what I’ve learned from my struggles to help someone overcome theirs. “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

 

Steve Hanson, Associate Commissioner, NYS OASAS
Class: Narcan Training
All Students
Bio: Details to come!

 

Kristina Hebner-Akbar, Assistant Director, YOUTH POWER!
Class: Motivational Interviewing
Elective
Bio: Kristina Hebner-Akbar is a passionate advocate with many years of experience providing services to youth, young adults, and adults within the Mental Health System. Her passion stems from her own experiences and struggles with being labeled with a mental health diagnosis and cross-systems involvement as a young adult. She has worked in multiple roles of direct service ranging from Youth Advocate to Supported Education Counselor. Kristina has co-authored an encyclopedia article on Youth Advocacy and has been interviewed by several news outlets in NYC regarding her anti-stigma work. She also received the mPower Award in 2004 from the National Mental Health Association for her work with youth and young adults in NYC at the Mental Health Association of New York City, Inc. Kristina is currently pursuing a degree in Computer Information Sciences.

 

Kat Jenkins, YOUTH POWER! Member
Activity: Alterbooking
Bio: A Youth Power Member, Kat is an advocate for empowering all people to be true to themselves. Kat has an A.A. in General Studies and a B.A. in English and currently works in the Non-Profit Healthcare field. A long-time supporter of anything art and self-care related, Kat uses art and “artivism” in order to deal with anything and everything life brings to the table.

 

Dee Levy, Director of Individual and Family Support Services, New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs
Class: Justice Center: Abuse and Neglect Awareness and Reporting
Elective
Bio: Dee Levy is the Director of Individual and Family Support Services for the New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs and has been working for the Agency since October 2013. In this capacity, Ms. Levy supervises a team of advocates within the Individual and Family Support Unit that are responsible for providing guidance and support to victims of abuse or neglect, their families, personal representatives, and guardians. Ms. Levy received her Master of Social Work from Stony Brook University in 2007 and worked for the New York State Assembly as a Senior Analyst with the Codes Committee, focusing primarily on criminal justice policies and legislation. Additionally, Ms. Levy was employed as a Domestic Violence Residential Counselor with Equinox Inc. where she provided assistance, support and referrals to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

 

Brian Lombrowski, Program Analyst, Services for the Underserved
Class:
Understanding Medicaid for Effective Systems Advocacy
Major: Systems Advocacy
Bio: Brian Lombrowski is currently the Program Analyst for Services for the Underserved (SUS), a large multifaceted non-profit based out of New York City.  Brian received his Master’s degree in Public Policy from of the University of Chicago where he also received a certificate in Health Policy and Administration.  Prior to coming to SUS, he worked in many different roles; as a peer, a care coordinator, a peer organizer, and a program developer, for both government and the non-profit sector. One of Brian’s great passions it to break down the complexity of health care systems so that the average person can understand how to use it to their advantage. When not trying to figure out what Medicaid will pay for, Brian likes to spend time with his wife and 3-year-old daughter – who he has already realized is way smarter than he is.  But he’s totally ok with that.

 

Beth Mangiaracina, Regional Coordinator, Mental Health Empowerment Project, Inc
Class:
The Power of Language
Elective
Bio:
Elizabeth (Beth) Mangiaracina has been involved for a long time in mental health services and is a person journeying on her path of healing.  She began her involvement in the Recovery Movement in 2010 working as a Peer Support Worker (PSW) at a traditional mental health provider agency in MA. She became certified as a Peer Specialist, CPS, by the State of MA and began working as a Peer Support Worker Supervisor. In July of 2014, she joined the team at the Mental Health Empowerment Project (MHEP) as a Statewide Trainer in NYS.

 

Elana Marton, Deputy Director & Counsel, NYS Council on Children and Families
Class: Young People’s Rights
Major: Peer Advocacy
Bio: Elana Marton serves as the Deputy Director and Counsel of the New York State Council on Children and Families, which helps to coordinate the state’s health, education and human service systems for children and their families. At the Council, Elana helps develop policies impacting youth with cross-system needs and responds to questions regarding how children and youth can access needed services. Previously, Elana served as Associate Counsel to the Speaker of the New York State Assembly where she drafted and negotiated legislation on mental hygiene issues, including the “Children’s Mental Health Act of 2006” which has been the building block for interagency collaborations aimed at improving the emotional and social well-being of New York’s children and families. Before working in New York, Elana worked on child welfare and other policies for the Nevada State Legislature and on local government issues at the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. She earned her law degree by attending the night program at the University of Connecticut School of Law and a B.A. from Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

 

Joseph Munisteri, Cosplayer, Artivist, and Vice President of YOUTH POWER!
Class: Nerd Culture: Cosplay, Artivism & Peer Support through Shared Interests and Hobbies
Elective
Bio: Joseph Munisteri is a founding board member of Youth Power! He is also cosplayer who brings awareness to various topics via activism. He is extremely active in his community in an attempt to make everyone’s lives more awesome. He hopes to one day write a comic called the Access Avengers. He also owns a Giant Papier Mache Hulk and always carries a sketchbook with him often asking others to draw a key to inspire others (these keys and a podcast about them can be found on his website www.unlockcreativity.org) and has presented at New York Comic Con and Syracuse University.

 

Stephanie Orlando, Executive Director, YOUTH POWER!
Class:
From a Spark to a Flame: Advice from a Pioneer of the Youth Peer Movement
Elective
Bio:
Building upon her personal experience of having received children’s mental health, special education, and residential services, Ms. Orlando began her work with youth peer advocacy in 1998 in Buffalo New York.  In the years since, Ms. Orlando has become a nationally recognized advocate for youth with disabilities.  Her work is dedicated to promoting positive change within child-serving systems, increasing the availability of peer support for young people and teaching youth how to advocate for their own needs and rights on all levels of service. She has received numerous awards for her work, including the Diana Vietz Award in 2008 from the National Council on Independent Living and mpower Award in 2006 from the National Mental Health Association. Although Ms. Orlando dropped out of high-school on her 16th birthday, she received her high-school equivalency diploma in 1999, a year before her graduating class. She then went on to graduate magna cum laude from the University at Buffalo in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts.  In 2005, Ms. Orlando also started working for Families Together in New York State as the Statewide Youth Coordinator.  By 2007, she and a few other young leaders had founded the YOUTH POWER! network.  In 2012, Ms. Orlando was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the US Senate to the National Council on Disability for a term, which expired in November 2014.  During her term, she served on the Executive Committee and as the Chairperson of the Governance and Planning Committee.

 

Jessica Pidgeon, Ph.D. NYS Excelsior Service Fellow, Developmental Disabilities Planning Council
Class: Political Involvement
Major: Systems Advocacy
Bio: Jessica L. Pidgeon has been working for the NY State DD council since 2013. She started as a graduate assistant and was later selected to be a NYS Excelsior Fellow at the NY DD Council in 2015.  Jessica is a graduate of Siena College (B.A), the University of California, Riverside (M.A.), and Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the University at Albany, SUNY (Ph.D.), where she received the University at Albany’s Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation Award in recognition of the important contribution that her research on the political participation of individuals with disabilities, family members, and support staff in American elections made to the field of political science. She has continued her relationship with Rockefeller College as an Adjunct Professor for the Department of Political Science, where she teaches courses on American politics and public policy.

 

Fabienne Pierre, Policy & Advocacy Assistant, The Children’s Aid Society
Class:
Legislative Advocacy 101 – Organizing a Campaign & Leading Other into the Purpose
Major: Systems Advocacy
Bio: Fabienne is currently the Policy & Advocacy Assistant at The Children’s Aid Society. In this role, Fabienne manages the lobbying reports for the organization, office operations, provide advocacy trainings, and social media advocacy for the office of public policy as well as provides research, advocacy, and policy support to key agency-wide projects and policy team staff. Her areas of focus within the office are early childhood and food and nutrition policies. She developed a passion for youth and advocacy when she began mentoring young teens in Miami as a volunteer. At the time, Fabienne was majoring in accounting at Florida International University but moved back to New York and completed her studies, receiving a B.S. in Community and Human Services at SUNY Empire State College. During her studies at Empire State, Fabienne became a Court Appointed Special Advocate where she worked with foster care children and then went on to intern and become hired at the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA) where she was responsible for advocating to get passed the Safe Harbor Act in addition to working closely with child welfare agencies. Fabienne is a Program Board Member for Covenant House of the New York Mother & Child Program and a member of UNICEF Next Generation where she serves on the advocacy committee and Congressional Action Team for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF advocating for children around the world. Fabienne is currently pursuing an Executive Education Certificate with a concentration in nonprofit leadership from Harvard Kennedy School.

 

Bill Przylucki, Director, Collaborative Solutions, NYS Council on Children and Families
Class: Takin’ It To The Streets – This Ain’t No Doobie Brothers’ Tune
Major: Systems Advocacy
Bio: Feels blessed and fortunate to be doing good work with the NYS Council on Children and Families. Repeat professor at UYP!—Loves it!!  Also has 2 biological, adult children, Erin and Bill, living in Seattle and Los Angeles respectively—both doing great work in areas of housing, education, poverty, community bias and the environment! A very active, still working Dad at age 86! and wonderful family members all over the place! And a professional career of 36+ years, MSW degree, some post-graduate work and an adjunct instructor title along the way!  Entire 36+ year professional career has been devoted to effecting positive change and advancement with individuals, families, systems and communities in all sorts of collaborative ways.

 

Courtney Ramirez, Executive Director, NYS Administrative Children’s Services/Office of Family Engagement and Youth Advocacy
Class: Reaching the “Hard to Reach”
Elective
Bio: Courtney Ramirez is the Executive Director of the Office of Family Engagement & Youth Advocacy at NYC ACS, where she is responsible for ensuring the constituent voice, particularly youth, is represented in all of the agency’s programs, services, and guiding policies. A long-time advocate and adult ally, Courtney brings a unique passion and energy to her work. Over the years, she has worked at nearly every level of human services including front-line direct care staff, crisis responder, non-profit executive and state-wide government coordinator.  She has developed curricula on various topics and facilitated trainings for community, school and facility youth, staff, and families.

She has secured funding for various prevention programs, juvenile justice-related initiatives, and services for both victims and offenders.  She developed youth councils, advisory boards and peer education workshops in jurisdictions across NYS; and has presented workshops at countless national conferences. Whether working to reduce racial disparities, assist young people in transitioning home from incarceration, improve access to healthcare, or link young people to education and employment activities, she has always been committed to identifying the strengths, talents, and assets of young people; and providing them positive opportunities to share their expertise with key community and government leaders.

Co-Presenters: Jamar Daniels, Jermaine Hill-Cross, and Nigel Reid, Peer Mentors, ACS Youth Leadership Council
Bio:
The 3 planned co-facilitators: Jamar Daniels, Nigel Reid and Jermaine Hill-Cross)  are all affiliated with the NYC Youth Leadership Council for Children’s Services.  Each of them brings personal systems’ experience, either foster care or juvenile/ criminal justice, with them and have worked as Peer Mentors with the Administration for Children’s Services’ Office of Family Engagement & Youth Advocacy.

These young people have struggled with navigating through the often confusing bureaucracies and have achieved personal successes along their own journeys to successful adulthood.  Their personal resilience and commitment to helping pave a smoother way for others is both admired and highly respected by local foster care and juvenile justice leadership.  Nigel and Jermaine participated in the Coalition for Juvenile Justice 2016 Youth Summit in Washington, DC, where they presented a panel workshop with former ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrion; Jamar was a past member of New Yorkers for Children’s Youth Advisory Board and worked closely with  foster care leaders and technology experts at the recent NYC Foster Care Hackathon.

 

John Richter, Director of Public Policy, Mental Health Association of New York State (MHANYS)
Class: Effective Legislative Advocacy
Major: Systems Advocacy
Bio: John Richter has been the Director of Public Policy at the Mental Health Association in New York State (MHANYS) since January 2008.  Mr. Richter joined MHANYS after spending over twenty years serving and advocating for the elderly and people with disabilities. His career in human services began as a direct care worker in Community Residences for people with developmental disabilities.  He has managed both Community Residences and Intermediate Care Facilities (ICFs) and was a Behaviorist for a 14-bed ICF for adolescents with Autism. He spent 13 years in long term care policy with the New York Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (NYAHSA) specializing in adult home, assisted living and home care issues. John has been a registered lobbyist in the state of New York for the past 20 years.  While at MHANYS, John was instrumental in the passage of legislation requiring that New York schools begin teaching about mental health, beginning in 2018, as part of the school health curriculum.  John received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from SUNY Stony Brook.  He received his Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at SUNY Albany, where he completed his internship in Medicaid Rate Setting for the then Division of Substance Abuse Services (DSAS). John lives in Albany with his wife Susan, a practicing Psychiatrist.

 

Marc Rosen, Treasurer, YOUTH POWER!
Class: Transforming Pain into Power: How Writing From Trauma Can Conquer Your Trauma
Elective
Bio: Marc Rosen is the Treasurer for YOUTH POWER!, an established author/poet, and has developed a Writing From Trauma method that enables just about anyone to confront their traumas on their own terms.

 

BrendaCleo Smith, Youth Peer Advocate, Mental Health Association of NYC
Class: Woosah 101 for Youth Peer Advocates
Major: Peer Advocacy
Bio: BrendaCleo Smith is currently a Peer Youth Advocate for the Mental Health Association of NYC – Bronx Adolescent Skills Center. Despite her young age, she has spent 10 years advocating for herself in the mental health and foster care systems. BrendaCleo now spends her time advocating for other youth who have not found their own voice yet. She is now dedicated her work to equipping other youth with the skills they need to effectively advocate for themselves with the hopes of seeing other youth grow from their circumstances instead of falling through the cracks.

 

Kim Wadsworth, Training Specialist, New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs
Class: Justice Center: Abuse and Neglect Awareness and Reporting
Elective
Bio: Kim Wadsworth is a training specialist with the New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs and has been with the agency since its creation in June 2013. Kim has over ten years of training experience and is currently responsible for developing, coordinating and implementing training programs on various topics, including trainings based on statutory requirements to state agencies which discuss the prevention of abuse and neglect and promote full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of life. Before receiving her Masters of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Northern Colorado in 2005, Kim was a Special Education teacher in New York and North Carolina.

 

Brennan Williams, Hudson River Regional Youth Partner, YOUTH POWER!
Class: Cultural Competency: Address the Needs of LGBTQ+ Youth
Major: Peer Advocacy
Bio: Brennan Williams is a passionate activist and member of the mental health, disability, and young adult communities. His personal experiences and work throughout the past 11 years have given him a unique glimpse into some of the many challenges of living as someone who is “labeled.” Brennan’s experiences within these systems have heavily intersected with being transgender. Brennan has mentored homeless and at-risk youth, participated in college disability activist groups, worked to help pass human rights laws for the transgender community, and organized panels and provided training to various community providers. He has also worked with a Youth Court program to educate and encourage youth and young adults to know their rights and how to advocate for them. Brennan brings with him several years of professional work with the disability community, including youth and young adult specific programs. Brennan’s experiences and work have been the driving forces behind his desire to educate, advocate, organize, and push for our communities to value input from all people.

BriAnne Wilson, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Play Therapist
Activity:
Paint and Sip
Bio: BrieAnne is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Play Therapist, and Reiki Practitioner, who currently works currently at a clinic doing school-based work with children, adolescents and young adults, and through private practice. BrieAnne has practiced counseling for over 8 years and is an alumni SUNY Oswego. BrieAnne in her free time enjoys hiking, backpacking, photography, running, and spending time with her dog Paxil.

 

Patricia Zuber-Wilson, Licensed Zumba Instructor
Class: Zumba
Elective
Bio: Pat has been a licensed Zumba instructor for almost two years.  She leads Zumba classes at the Troy Branch of the Capital District YMCA and other locations in the Capital Region.  In addition, she has participated in numerous Zumbathon Charity events throughout the community.